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Russia’s space agency to specify date for ISS crew return and next launch after October 30

The cosmonauts to the crew will also be deteкmined at that time

MOSCOW, October 22. /TASS/. The date for the current crew of the International Space Station (ISS) to return to Earth and the launch of a new expedition will be determined after the probe of the Soyuz-FG incident is completed, State Space Corporation Roscosmos told TASS on Monday.

"The date for the landing of the current crew and the launch of the next expedition, as well as the date for a spacewalk [to inspect a hole in the hull of the manned Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the ISS] will be determined after the commission probing the Soyuz-FG booster incident completes its work, i.e. after October 30," Roscosmos said.

The cosmonauts who will make a spacewalk will also be determined after October 30, the Roscosmos press office said.

Some media outlets earlier reported citing a source in Russia’s space industry that Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev who is currently working on the ISS and Oleg Kononenko who will reportedly fly to the orbital outpost on December 3 may make a spacewalk to inspect a hole in the hull of the manned Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft on December 10-11.

Currently, US astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and astronaut of the European Space Agency Alexander Gerst are working on the space station jointly with Russian cosmonaut Prokopyev. As the Cosmonaut Training Center told TASS, there are no plans to change the composition of the next crew, which is expected to comprise Kononenko, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency David Saint-Jacques.

Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Programs Sergei Krikalyov earlier said that the Russian space agency planned to hold three unmanned launches of rockets by the end of the year before the next manned launch.

A source in the Russian space industry said on Monday that the first launch of a Soyuz-FG rocket after the October 11 incident is preliminarily scheduled for November 18. This will be the launch of a Progress MS-10 resupply ship, the source said.

Soyuz aborted launch

A Soyuz-FG carrier rocket with a manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft blasted off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 11. On board the spacecraft were Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin (the commander of the Soyuz MS-10) and NASA astronaut Nick Hague.

Following a smooth liftoff, the Soyuz’s booster malfunctioned between the first and second stages of separating, whereupon the crew was forced to abort the flight and switch to ballistic descent. The manned Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft ended up landing in the Kazakh steppe.

The press office of Russia’s Central Military District reported that rescuers recovered the crew from the descent capsule. Later, the crewmembers were examined and found to be in good condition. After their medical check-up in the town of Baikonur, the astronauts were transported to Moscow.

This is the first emergency landing with this type of carrier rocket over the past 35 years.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who returned to Moscow from the Baikonur spaceport on October 12 after the Soyuz booster’s failure, flew to the United States on October 13.

Soyuz hull damage

On August 30, a drop in air pressure was registered on the ISS. The crew examined the compartments and add-on modules one by one to identify a two-millimeter hole in the hull of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft attached to the orbital outpost. In the evening of the same day it was patched up with several layers of epoxy resin. Pressure returned to normal. On August 31 the crew reinforced the patch with another layer of sealant.

Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft had been damaged with a drill from the inside. The space rocket corporation Energia is conducting an investigation to identify those responsible. Inquiries are being made into who had access to the spacecraft, what works were carried out, and who supervised them.

A spacewalk to examine the hole in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft’s hull was earlier scheduled for November 15.